For the final BlogPoll ballot of the year, I decided to tweak the methodology to address some of the more common complaints about the ballots I've cast and to move more towards what I think I'm going to do next year, which is very much like a resume ballot and yet gets out of some of the strictures of being a resume balloter.
From now on, I'm going to construct my ballot based on what I think are the 25 most accomplished teams at that point of the season. That might sound like the same thing, but I think it allows for a bit more flexibility than what some here have called "a power poll of a team's opponents." (I still don't think that's 100 percent accurate, because I took into account whether a team beat those teams and by how much, but it is a valid criticism to some extent.)
The difference is subtle and a bit difficult to put into words -- one of the reasons I've been a bit hesitant to do it -- but I think the easiest way to put it is that it takes into account the totality of a team's season instead of just the totality of its schedule. And it gives me the room to step in and move teams up or down after looking at the first draft of the ballot, which is all for the better. All that said, and with relatively few exceptions, I'm actually fairly pleased with what I came up with.
1-5: Alabama should be obvious for most people. Texas A&M is a big jump, but they clobbered Oklahoma and defeated Alabama for what might be the best two wins that anyone in the country has, and narrow losses to Florida and LSU are not as impressive as they might have looked a month ago but are still perhaps the least damaging combination of losses in the country. Oregon and Georgia was a very hard choice to make, and I'm still not certain I got it exactly right. (If we could cast tie votes for the BlogPoll, I would have.) Oregon's only loss was by three points to Stanford and it has wins against Kansas State, Oregon State and some pretty good Pac-12 teams. Georgia has two losses, one a pretty ugly one to South Carolina, which I'm willing to downplay some but not completely ignore. Its best wins are Florida and Vanderbilt, which are both good teams but both come in below their respective spots on Oregon's schedule. Stanford came down a bit, which doesn't seem quite right in isolation, but I can't give them too much credit for the Wisconsin win and I think the Cardinal are where they belong.
6-10: Florida and Ohio State were two of the hardest teams to rank. Florida started out the team on fire and still has a great resume with the annihilation of South Carolina and the defeat of LSU. But the latter in particular has lost some value since then, and Florida's played one good game since it beat South Carolina. If we were talking about a strict power poll, I'm not sure the Gators would be that high. But we aren't, so there they are. Ohio State went undefeated in the worst of the Big Five conferences -- yes, I think the B1G is worse than the ACC this year -- and didn't really have a notable non-conference win. LSU's loss wasn't the worst in the world, but it was their third, so it weighs them down a little bit, while Kansas State looked bad two out of the last three games it played. Yeah, Jadeveon Clowney destroyed a Michigan player, but it was still a down Michigan team in a down year for the B1G, so let's not go crazy.
11-15: Ooh, there's Notre Dame, throwing at Dee Millner like there's no tomorrow. The Sooner do have two decent wins -- against Stanford and at an Oklahoma team that got clubbed in the Cotton Bowl -- but they got rocked in their best game. And after Oklahoma, the schedule falls off so dramatically that the third-best win is either Southern Cal or Michigan. This might be an overreaction, but I tend to view this more and more as a team that played two really good games and one terrible one. Not sure that Oklahoma shouldn't fall some, but meh. (Lots of teams that are and were ranked had bad bowl games.) Louisville and Clemson both had pretty good wins, and while I thought NIU would give Florida State more of a game than they did, I'm still not sure how much the now-unranked Huskies add to the Seminole's cachet.
16-20: I really hate Texas moving up here, but the Oregon State win is significant enough that I have to give them some credit. Utah State probably shouldn't have fallen, but they're basically being passed by Texas (see above) and Louisville, which was obviously pretty vastly underrated in my last ballot. NORTHWESTERN BEAT AN SEC TEAM. Yeah, but it was Mississippi State, so everybody get a hold of your horses. Vanderbilt moves up for beat a decent ACC team.
21-25: Ew, Boise State. Yeah, you try finding 25 teams that are worth ranking this year and we'll talk. Cincinnati and Rutgers are here because the alternatives are even worse. Tulsa bows at No. 25 because a 10-win season is a 10-win season, even in Conference-USA, and because the alternatives, as you might have guessed, are even worse.